Monday, December 29, 2014

Grandma's Cheese Ball with Julie

Watch out Julie, there are some very hungry humans who want a shot at that cheese ball!

And wrapping up this year's holiday features is a family favorite recipe that I, personally, have never really been into, but has been a staple of our Christmas and end of year holiday traditions for at least fifty years. The cheese ball is an appetizer that has almost taken on a ritualistic importance to us, something that's hoarded from outsiders and devoured almost as soon as it's put on the table. We're like vultures, circling the coffee table and diving in as soon as this gooey wonder is put on the table. It can be spread on pretty much any kind of cracker or bread, and I know some people who would argue it tastes just fine even if you just want to take a spoonful of it and go to town. This is the one thing everyone agrees needs to be on the menu at Christmas, and there might be riots if it wasn't served at some point.

According to everyone else, anyway. Again, I'm the outlier in my family, because this particular treat doesn't do too much for me.

But that doesn't change that it's an important part of our holiday traditions and has been for way longer than I've been alive, so when I was thinking of what else I wanted to do this holiday season on the blog, I knew this had to be one of the features. It was fun to go back and discover the origins of such a popular family treat and learn how to make it myself, just in case it's a tradition I want to continue years down the line. And who knows? Tastes change. Maybe I'll become a cheese ball convert after all!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Josefina's Bizcochitos

A New Mexican favorite that's perfect for the holidays!

While this isn't anything close to the Christmas cookies we usually have in our house at this time of year, I've been curious about what a bizcochito actually is and what it tastes like pretty much since Josefina came out over ten years ago. While I've got access to a diverse range of food and goodies in my neck of the woods, I'd never seen or heard of one except in the context of her books, and already, I've found out some neat trivia. Did you know there's such thing as a state cookie? I didn't before doing research for this post! I also discovered that most people I've seen since making these cookies had never heard of them before.

Fair enough, really, because even if they are the state cookie of New Mexico, they really only seem to have huge ties to that specific part of the world, and other places are a little less familiar with them. When I tried to explain that they were basically a sugar cookie with anise seeds and cinnamon sugar on top, my taste testers were convinced to give them a chance, and were surprised to discover they tasted like old fashioned Italian cookies they'd tried before! Who would have thought.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Felicity's Trip to Colonial Williamsburg!

A Peek into the Pantry went on a field trip!

I first went to Colonial Williamsburg when I was nine years old, and it's all American Girl's fault. Or, well, more accurately, I probably would have found my way down there eventually, because my mom and her family made it a quasi frequent stop on a number of summer roadtrips during her childhood, and she's always had a soft spot for the place. I've been a couple times, but we've never gone during the one time of year everyone says is really special to visit: Christmas! So this year, we decided to change that and go see what all the fuss is about.

This isn't going to be a traditional blog post from me because I didn't actually cook anything, but since we were visiting such a great historic site that's well known for its food - I've used recipes from their official food blog History is Served several times in the history of A Peek into the Pantry - I figured it might be fun to do a spotlight on what we ate while we were in town!

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Rebecca's Mandelbrodt

A twice baked cookie that's perfect for dunking!

I faced a major problem in figuring out what to do for Hanukkah this year. While last year's latkes and applesauce turned out pretty darn tasty, the mess they caused in our kitchen (the day before Thanksgiving...) made my mom put her foot down pretty quickly about any Hanukkah adventures we did this year: no frying anything in oil.

Unfortunately, that's a pretty big part of the Hanukkah story. Like, the part, so a lot of Hanukkah recipes involve things being fried in oil, whether they be doughnuts or potato pancakes. I was pretty stumped on what to do, and was resigned to spending a lot of time ferreting around on the internet trying to find something that was both period accurate and didn't involve frying anything.

But then Food Network saved me during the first episode of their Holiday Baking Championship, where one of the bakers made a Jewish cookie called mandelbrodt, and I knew I had found my feature for this week.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Kit's Potato Puff Balls

Kicking off the holiday with a somewhat untraditional side dish!

Perhaps unsurprisingly, it turns out finding really Christmasy recipes from the Depression? Is actually pretty difficult. Or at least reasonably difficult when you've been told you're already making too many cookies this month, find something else to make!

Which, to be fair, is a good argument. I keep saying that I want to turn this blog into something other than a chronicle of my various baking adventures, except then I go right back to making cookies and cakes instead of figuring out how to prepare a meal for myself and others. Fortunately, after poking around a lot of different websites and through a couple cookbooks, I discovered a relatively easy appetizer that - while not necessarily very holiday seeming on its own - was apparently a popular visitor to tables across the country during the Depression. It's not surprising! Potatoes are cheap, you can grow them yourself, and they can be stretched or used to stretch other ingredients you've got in your pantry.

And hey, maybe Christmas needs more simple, easy to make appetizers. Might cut down on the amount of stress the holiday creates for some people!

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Papa's Mashed Turnips with Molly

A family favorite for well over half a century!

I'll readily admit - and have been honest with you guys in the past! - that I'm not a very enthusiastic eater of vegetables. I'll eat them, but they're never something I really go out of my way to try, and I do often fall prey to assuming I won't like a vegetable without having tried it.

Take turnips, for example. Turnips have been a staple at my family's Thanksgiving table pretty much as long as I can remember thanks to my grandfather (who we call Papa, thus the title), but I'm pretty sure I'd never actually tried turnips before starting this blog and they wound up as an ingredient in a soup I did. Until then, my experience with this particular root vegetable was my mom promising I'd like them if I gave them a chance and the scene in Meet Molly where she complains that the turnips she's being forced to eat from their Victory Garden taste like old socks until her mother adds some butter and sugar to them for her. Needless to say, I was never that enthusiastic about giving them a shot, but now that I've discovered they aren't anything close to bad, I knew what I wanted to feature for Thanksgiving this year.

After all, it's been a family favorite for over seventy years!

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Addy's Turkey Stuffing

Just in case you feel like being a little more adventurous than Stove Top this year...

When it comes to Thanksgiving, I don't think I'm alone in being more into the side dishes than I am into the main meal itself. I don't have anything against turkey, don't get me wrong! But I'm more likely to try and run off with the entire bowl of mashed potatoes than I am to start a fight over what pieces of turkey I get.

Certain other family members feel the same way about stuffing, and while I'm not sure this is going to replace Stove Top for some of them, I have to admit, this authentic Civil War era recipe for turkey stuffing was pretty tops, if I do say so myself. It won my heart for being easy to make, tasty, and flexible enough to go with just about any entree if you make it on a random day to accompany whatever else is being made for dinner.

What can I say? Thanksgiving is still a couple days away, we're not making two turkeys this week!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Emily's Trench Cake

Don't let the name scare you off!

Happy Veteran's Day, everyone! Also, happy Armistice and Remembrance Day, as November 11th is called all three depending on where you are. To those not in the know, November 11th marks the date hostilities in western Europe stopped in 1918, thus ending the First World War. It's celebrated world wide as a day of remembrance not only for the causalities of that war, but of all wars, and the first celebration was held in 1919 at Buckingham Palace in England.

American Girl doesn't have a character who's specifically from America's involvement in World War One, but some of the characters do have connections to it - Rebecca's aunt, uncle and cousins leave Russia for America out of fear that her oldest cousin will be conscripted into the Russian army, Kit's dad fought in the trenches with the US Army, and Emily's grandfather served in the Royal Navy. Although it probably would have been more appropriate to do a Kit themed post, it's been a while since I've done an Emily solo post, and I was interested to see what was out there for British recipes for this period as they were involved in the conflict a lot longer than the United States was. After doing some poking around, I think I found something that will surprise pretty much everyone with how good it actually is, despite bearing one of the most unappealing names I've ever come across.

But before we get to that, I've got a couple other things to show you all!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Josefina's Pumpkin Pastel

A really interesting spin on your favorite Thanksgiving dessert!

November is here, which means Christmas commercials, the sun going down before I leave work, and Thanksgiving, the latter of which is probably the only thing I genuinely enjoy about November.

Well, that and the fact that people still consider it to be pumpkin season, and as I've mentioned, I happen to be a fan of pumpkin. There's a part of me that almost wishes it was available as a flavor for things like ice cream and cupcakes year round - don't even get me started on the pumpkin pancake mix my mom usually breaks out at Christmas time! - but I have to admit, it's also kind of nice to have it as something to look forward to in the fall. It keeps it a little special!

So, needless to say, I was excited to discover that the recipe included with A Reward for Josefina featured pumpkin as one of the main ingredients. I know the last time I tried an American Girl recipe starring pumpkin was kind of a disaster, but I went into it with a fair amount of cautious optimism, and I think I'm pretty confident in saying it worked out way better than I thought it would!

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Rebecca's Heath Bars

Thus proving I really will try anything once in the name of the blog.

When my parents moved my sister back into college, they stopped by the Wilbur Chocolate Factory in Lititz, Pennsylvania and stumbled upon an interesting cookbook. As people often do since I started this blog, they brought it home with them to give me as potential inspiration for a future blog post, and considering this one is all about how to make your very own versions of popular candy bars, I knew Halloween was the perfect holiday to break it out.

Now I know it's technically November now, and Halloween was yesterday, but considering this was how I spent my Halloween, I'm not going to apologize for posting it off season. I'm also putting this out there right away: this was a lot of effort for a tasty treat, and I'm not sorry I made it... but if you want a heath bar, it's probably easiest if you just go out and buy one at the store. I'm not sure how much sense it actually made to try recreating a candy bar you can just go out and purchase!

Still, it was an interesting thing to make, and I'm excited to share the experience with you all.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Cécile's Chèvre on Toast

What's not to love about cheese on toast?

Are you looking for something quick and easy to make for breakfast? Lunch? A lazy dinner that doesn't involve a lot of clean up, prep time, or much of anything else? Or an appetizer for a party you're throwing to prove what a sophisticated, high class adult you are?

Look no further. These little cheese toasts look elegant and are simple enough for even the most inexperienced cook to make. Although they're not my personal favorite thing I've ever made for the blog, they seemed to be a hit with my taste testers and were happily gobbled down almost as soon as I took them out of the oven, which will hopefully be the case for you, too if you ever decide to try your hand at this French treat!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Molly's Nut and Raisin Bread

A tasty bread for breakfast. Or lunch. Or dinner. Or for a snack.

I'm going to apologize in advance: this is a long post. Like, a really long one. Maybe longer than any other one I've done so far on this blog, and so if you're in a rush, I promise I won't judge you for skimming. Or just looking at the pictures.

(There are a lot of pictures.)

So why, you may ask, is this post so long? Was this recipe especially complicated? Did it require more than one attempt. Yes, and no respectively, and you'll hear all about that in a minute. Long story short, for Columbus Day weekend, I went down to visit my aunt and uncle in Washington, D.C. and this was the recipe I picked to bring down with me and feature on the blog. And because I'm me, and we were in D.C., we did a lot of wandering around museums and memorials dedicated to one of my favorite periods in history to study. Since I'm always looking for ways to keep this blog fresh and interesting, I decided to share some of the trip with all of you!

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Felicity's Apple Butter and Breakfast Puffs

A tasty accompaniment to pretty much anything!

Fall is probably my favorite season. I love the way the leaves change, Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, and I'm a big fan of sweatshirt weather, even if it's still hard to believe it's already dark at six thirty at night.

I'm also a fan because apples are one of my favorite fruits, and I've been waiting to break out this particular recipe for quite some time! Actually, probably since this time last year, when I just kind of ran out of time to make it. Since I really didn't want that to happen again, this was actually the first blog post I did for the month... and then I got lazy, and didn't post it for several weeks. Oh well!

The important thing is that it's happening now, so without further ado, apple butter, plus bonus breakfast puffs!

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Caroline's Joe Frogger Cookies

Super tasty molassesy cookies with an interesting origin story!

Caroline Abbott is the newest addition to the historical character line up - excuse me, the BeForever line at American Girl, and I imagine most of my non AG fan readers aren't familiar with her. Her stories take place during the War of 1812, and although she comes from Sackets Harbor, New York, for some reason, I always find myself wanting to do New England or maritime recipes with her, probably because she loves boats and sailing, and I associate that pretty strongly with my own roots.

Plus, I've maybe been wanting American Girl to make a historical character from New England since forever, and Caroline's another character from New York, so I'm borrowing her for a while until I get someone closer.

Caroline technically joined the group back in May for my birthday, but I've been sitting on a way to introduce her for a while. Quite a while at this point!

To get some inspiration for this post, Caroline and I went on a field trip...

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Samantha's Marble Cake

I've never understood why you would choose chocolate or vanilla when you can have both!

And then I kind of wandered away for two weeks. Sorry about that! Life happened, and I was kind of running on fumes for a while when it came to even thinking about doing anything with my blog. I'll be getting to answering comments shortly.

Anyway, in case you've been under a rock for the last month, some exciting new developments have occurred in the world of American Girl! The historical characters have got a fresh new look that I, for one, am very excited about, and while I'm pretty late to the party, I figured what better way to celebrate than make a cake?

And considering who made a pretty impressive comeback with the relaunch, it seemed only fitting for Samantha to host this post!

Well, that, and I really wanted to make a marble cake.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Julie's Ice Cream Pie

This might have been a bigger hit than the skillet cookie!

My mom's birthday was last Tuesday, and since I like baking and doing nice things for people since they do so much for me, I asked her what she'd want for a birthday treat. She surprised me a little by saying she didn't want cookies, she didn't want pie, she didn't want cake...

She wanted ice cream. And she had a really cool idea about how to make that happen.

What follows is a totally improvised recipe that's both really simple and very customizable. I apologize in advance for introducing it to you, because I've already had several requests to make it again, and the leftovers have been calling my name all week long. Seriously, it's a problem. But I guess that's what happens when you put ice cream, cookies and other delicious things together and stick it in the freezer for a while.

So, why is Julie hosting this post?

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

It's Our One Year Anniversay!

We've certainly expanded since last year!

One year ago today, I published my first official post on A Peek Into the Pantry, and as promised, we're doing a slightly different kind of post today. I thought about what I wanted to do for our anniversary post. For a while, I wanted to do some kind of recipe, but couldn't settle on a good one. Should it be a Kirsten recipe because she was my first doll? Should it be a family recipe we're all really fond of and dying to figure out a way to incorporate into the blog?

Then I got the idea that it might be fun to do a kind of retrospective. Instead of focusing on one new recipe, I wanted to take a look back and think about what I learned, what people enjoyed, what people really didn't, and where we want to go moving forward. This is what resulted! Instead of just giving you guys my thoughts about the blog, I polled my most frequent taste testers and supporters in the blogging process about their favorite dishes and ones that just didn't fly

So hopefully this will be a fun way to take a step back and look back on the last year, while also looking into the future to see where we wind up this time next year. If not, I guess we'll have to come up with a new idea for next year's anniversary!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Felicity's Sugar Cakes

The recipe that inspired A Peek Into the Pantry!

We're quickly coming up on the one year anniversary of this blog - can you believe it? I sure can't. I've already got some fun plans in the works for the anniversary, but when my grandma got the idea to get all the ladies on that side of the family (minus my sister, plus my brother, because she had plans and he never says no to a good time if there's going to be food there) for a tea last Sunday, I decided to break out the recipe that actually inspired me to start this blog in the first place: Sugar Cakes!

Remember, cakes are colonial cookies, and these are basically a nice, crunchy shortbread that are perfectly at home at just about any function. These definitely would have been on the table at a fancy tea or even at a wedding while Felicity was alive, and they're definitely something I'd like to keep in our usual rotation, too! They're incredibly easy to make, and they're special to me because again, without them? I might never have thought to make this blog!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Cooking with Sour Milk: Kit's Spice Cake and Biscuits

Don't just pour it all down the drain!

A few weekends ago, my parents and brother were out of town, leaving my sister and I in charge of the homestead. My sister vastly overestimated how much milk two people (or three, including her boyfriend) would be drinking while they were gone, so we wound up with about a gallon of expired milk. I was pretty mad until I remembered hey, sour milk actually works pretty well in baking, and quickly ran off to find things to make with it.

When I mentioned this to some friends, they were very surprised and more than a little dubious about how well this would work. Wouldn't expired milk make me sick, even if it was something I was baking with?

Fear not! While I wouldn't recommend drinking it straight out of the jug or leaving it to sit around for weeks and weeks (seriously, please don't do that), sour milk has been used in baking long before I wound up in this jam, so today, we're going to talk about three ways you can stretch any expired milk you might have in the house.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pancakes with Bucky Bear

Sometimes, you really just need a stack of pancakes.

I'm about to make a pretty dorky confession, although considering this is a cooking blog taking inspiration from historical dolls? I figure most of you won't judge me too harshly. I participate in text based roleplay, and have been doing so on and off since I was in middle school. What this means is basically, me and a bunch of friends and acquaintances write stories together, but from the perspective of one specific character per player rather than simply writing a collaborative novel or something. It's a lot of fun, and it's a good outlet for my creative energies when I'm not feeling up to writing my own epic trilogy or penciling a comic series, which is basically all the time. I've never been good at finishing my own original fiction projects.

Since April, I've dragged out one of my favorite characters out of retirement, and he likes pancakes. A lot. To the point of where my RP gmail inbox is now trying to advertise IHOP and Denny's to me because they're having specials on pancakes. Needless to say, I've been doing a lot of thinking about pancakes lately, and after admitting this to some of my friends, they then admitted they've either been craving pancakes or have gone out and made them because of me and my character!

So, who is this character and what's that bear doing here?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Rebecca's Pretzels

Bringing one of my personal favorite snacks off the streets and into your kitchen!

While street food is definitely something that can be enjoyed year round, I don't think I'm alone in thinking it's during the summer and spring when wandering around outside cramming food in your face is a lot easier than say, in the middle of a snowstorm, or just bitterly cold weather in general. That being said, pretzels are kind of a year round treat in my book, and I'll eat them pretty much wherever they're available. It's hard not to think of them as sporting event or theme park food though, and so when I was trying to think of a good recipe for Rebecca to do in the summer time, this was kind of a no brainer.

I've been doing a lot of thinking about and research into Coney Island lately (Marvel Cinematic Universe enthusiasts can probably guess why) and fantasizing about being able to head down to a theme park like I usually manage at least once during the summer, and where I'd be eating at least one soft pretzel during my visit, so that pretty much sealed the deal that this was something I definitely wanted to make before summer ended.

(I'm having a really hard time wrapping my mind around that. It seems like it just got here, and now we're almost done!)

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Kailey's Piña Coladas

Yes, we like piña coladas and getting caught in the rain, or so the song goes.

My younger brother has a certain fondness for all things tropical, and has since he was a kid. His dream job when he was maybe six years old was being a professional soccer player by day, who also moonlighted as a tiki carver in Hawaii during the off season. Needless to say, when he found out I wanted to try my hand at making piña coladas while he was away at camp, he pretty much insisted I swap my schedule around so he could try one for himself.

I am actually not a huge fan of piña coladas, so I'm not entirely sure why I decided I really wanted to make one. This is especially odd to me because I actually really like coconut and pineapple, so you'd think a drink that's basically a combination of the two would be right up my alley. In any case, I decided to make them, and all things considered, I think it worked out pretty well.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Nellie's Matter of Fact Peas

Ultimately not my favorite thing I've ever made, but if you like peas, you might want to give this a try?

I've said it before and I'll probably say it again: I have a hard time getting excited about eating vegetables. It's not that I don't like them, I just don't gravitate towards them when I'm deciding what I want to eat at any given moment, unless it's out of guilt. You know, the "I've only eaten junk food today, I should probably eat something with vitamins in it" sort of guilt, which I'm especially susceptible to when I'm left to my own devices even after starting this blog, which was supposed to help me learn to cook. Oops?

Anyway, unfortunate this is not the recipe that's going to get me excited about eating peas. I actually like peas just fine right out of the freezer bag! And there's always those Jeffersonian peas I made a couple months ago if you're looking for something a little more fancy. Matter of Fact Peas? Didn't really do it for me, so I'm putting that out there right now.

However, several of my taste testers did like this quite a bit apparently (I hope they weren't just trying to spare my feelings, because I definitely would not be offended if they said they were gross!) and it's not like I've never shied away from posting a failed recipe before, so here it is. Matter of Fact Peas.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ice Cream Sodas & Floats with Julie and Ivy

Three different ways to cool off this summer!

I've already explained my enthusiasm for s'mores at length to you guys, but I have a slight confession to make: they're actually in direct competition for my other favorite "summer time" dessert, which is traditionally a little easier to get year round than my good pal the s'more. Root beer floats are incredibly simple, super tasty, and pretty much the greatest thing anyone working a soda fountain has come up with.

Unfortunately, root beer floats themselves aren't really worth their own blog post. They're the textbook definition of simple: put vanilla ice cream in a glass, pour root beer over it, eat immediately. But don't worry, this post does feature something that's a little bit more complicated, and probably isn't something you've had before! I know I'd never really heard of it before digging out a certain old cookbook to get ideas.

So get excited, because this is definitely a tasty addition to any summery menu, and is simple enough that literally any aspiring chef can whip one up in a jiffy.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Josefina's Black Bean Corn Salad

A tasty cold salad with the flavors of the American Southwest!

Bean salads are a relatively recent invention compared to some of the other dishes we've featured on A Peek Into the Pantry. They apparently were an invention first really published and talked about before the turn of the 20th century, and have remained a popular side dish and starter to picnics and dinners ever since. While this isn't an especially historical or cultural dish from the perspective of Josefina, its main ingredient is an important staple of Latin American cuisine, and has so for thousands of years! After trying it at my cousin's graduation party, I knew I had to give it a shot myself and share it with the rest of you!

It's a pretty quick side dish or starter to throw together for a party or dinner, or even just to eat on its own if you're looking for a meat free protein dish with a lot of tasty vegetables in it. I know I've been trying to be a little more health conscious in terms of what goes into my mouth - not that you'd know it from looking at what food I've been making for the blog for the last couple weeks - and often have a hard time finding things I actually like eating, but this fit the bill pretty nicely.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Molly's S'mores Dip

Tired of making s'mores outside? Here's your solution!

I've already told you guys how much I love s'mores. I love them so much, I found a way to enjoy them even when there's three feet of snow on the ground and more on the way with s'mores hot chocolate! So needless to say, when I discovered there's a way to enjoy s'mores indoors, without the hassle of building a fire or using leftover coals from a grill, I was pretty excited. Between the mugginess and buggyness of mid to late summer, sometimes it's just not fun to stand around outside making dessert when you could be hiding indoors, and s'mores cooked over a fire can definitely be a little tough to put together, especially if you've got little kids who already have melted chocolate and marshmallow all over them.

This is a pretty neat solution, and it's really pretty brainless to make - always a good thing! It's also a great way to turn what seems like a purely summer time (or at least nice weather time) dessert into something that can be enjoyed any time of year, which I'm certainly not complaining about!

Friday, July 4, 2014

Kirsten's Honey Cake & the Daisy Chain Blog Award

A tasty historic cake that (technically) has no sugar!

Happy Fourth of July, everyone! And happy birthday to Captain America, while we're at it. My family usually has a cookout on Fourth of July, but since we're kind of caught up in the middle of a hurricane, we were stuck indoors all day. That worked out just fine for me, because my favorite Fourth of July tradition is marathoning Jaws and Captain America: The First Avenger. First Avenger is obvious, but people do ask me why Jaws quite a bit. The answer is simple: Jaws takes place leading up to, during and after Fourth of July weekend!

Anyway, I'm sure Kirsten doesn't seem like the obvious choice for a Fourth of July post. What about Felicity or Molly, right? Well, Kirsten Saves the Day is one of the only American Girl books that takes place on Fourth of July, and I thought it would be a fun challenge to find a recipe that used honey as one of the main ingredients because Kirsten finding honey is one of the major plots of the book. Honey was a luxury item that could be traded and sold for a lot of fun stuff, as well as a good alternative to expensive products like sugar. It did take a little bit of digging to find something featuring honey that Kirsten would have eaten, but I think what we came up with was pretty great.

Now, before we get started with the recipe, Rhonda from Living a Doll's Life nominated me for the Daisy Chain Blog Award! I'm going to take a moment at the beginning to answer her questions, and then get right to the recipe.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Kaya's Berry Crisp

The tastiest way to eat cooked berries I know.

It's officially summer time, which means it's berry season! This time of year used to mean a special treat for my siblings and our neighbors, because we used to have tons of wild blackberry bushes lining our shared driveway. They'd usually flower in June, get berries in July that started off bright red and sour before turning black and juicy a few weeks later. We used to get a pretty good haul if we were patient, but usually we weren't - it was too much fun to just sneak a couple ripe ones every time we went down to the mailbox!

Unfortunately, my other neighbors at the time who have since moved away weed whacked the bushes into oblivion one year. They've never grown back, which is something I think we're all still deeply resentful of, and so those halcyon days are gone.

I'm still certainly fond of blackberries though, and you guys already know that Kaya would have been, too! although this isn't a dessert Kaya would have enjoyed in 1764, it's definitely a tasty way to serve up any berries or fruit you've got around the house, and is perfect for any time of year.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Kirsten's Hassleback Potatoes

A quick way to really spice up a potato!

I have been sitting on this port for an embarrassingly long time. I actually made this neat Swedish side dish about two months ago, but every time I sit down to try and put my thoughts on paper (or on the computer, as it were), I just didn't feel like it. Don't get me wrong, these were a tasty side dish I definitely wouldn't mind making again, but the magic was kind of missing, here.

Admittedly, that might have to do with the fact that our microwave broke in the middle of making it - don't worry, it's since been replaced - so the final touch was sort of missing from this particular culinary adventure. For all this and more, keep reading!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Julie's Shrimp and Pineapple Skewers

A fun new addition to any cookout!

Today is Father's Day! Since the weather's finally decent, we've been making good use of the grill, and that meant that I got to have my first lesson on how to use it from - you guessed it - my dad! Grilling is a family pass time passed down from my dad's dad to him, and I've been very interested in learning how to do it myself. Since the shrimp and pineapple kebabs featured in Julie and the Eagles and represented in her birthday lunch accessory set sounded tasty and seemed simple, I figured it was as good a place as any to start off. My dad also loves pineapple, so everything about this just seemed sort of perfect.

Besides, I'm still a little intimidated by cooking steaks, despite my more successful attempts in that arena so far.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Addy's Civil War Beef Stew

It turns out Civil War army rations aren't as horrible as you might think!

I closed my post last night with words from Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, which is hands down one of my all time favorite speeches and I might get choked up every time I read it, let alone if I'm trying to recite it or listening to someone else do it. That's kind of been on the brain for me lately not only because I think its words are still incredibly relevant today, but also because last weekend, my town hosted a Civil War reenactment! I love Civil War reenactments. Living history is something I've always really enjoyed, and part of me would love to be able to do it for a career. The other part of me wonders if I'd do a good job staying in character - I feel like I'd be pretty self conscious!

So while I didn't participate, I did attend, and of course I got to thinking about what kind of food I could make to bring the event home. One of my favorite food blogs - The History Kitchen - had something that totally fit the bill: an authentic stew recipe that would have been cooked by Union soldiers in the field!

I know what you're thinking - Gwen, that sounds horrifying! But I promise it's not. With the benefit of fresh ingredients and a distinct lack of typhoid fever in the area, it's actually quite tasty, if a bit time consuming to make. Put a little faith in me and read on to find out more about it.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Seventy Years Ago Today: D-Day

Kind of hard to believe it's been 70 years, isn't it?

I don't have a recipe to share today - I wasn't sure that would be appropriate, honestly, considering what event I'm calling attention to - but I wanted to take a minute to give a shout out to D-Day, which happened seventy years ago today. Now, it's my experience that most historians - professional and amateur - like to argue a lot about when the actual turning point in a military conflict was (Civil War battlefields take this to the next level by holding a competition for the bloodiest spot of the war, from street to field to lane to square foot), and I've always thought this was a little silly because of course something as complicated as a war would have multiple turning points. Let's stop wasting time debating whether or not Stalingrad or D-Day or the Battle of the Bulge was "the" turning point, and focus on the important things, shall we?
But that being said, Operation Overlord was certainly one of if not the most important movements of the war (and I would say it does deserve to be called the most important), and anyone who tries to downplay its significance has no idea what they're talking about. Learning from mistakes that had been made during landings in Operation Torch (North Africa), Husky (Sicily) and in Salerno and Anzio in Italy, the Allies were able to launch a successful, mobile amphibious invasion of France, which also happens to be the largest seaborne invasion in history. For a motley group of multinational armies that often fought each other worse than some teenagers argue about boys, this was no small feat, and it did really put the writing on the wall that Germany's sun was setting and setting for good.

D-Day is actually what got me into learning about World War II exactly ten years ago. My French teacher in seventh grade devoted the entire week leading up to the 60th anniversary to showing us videos and giving lectures on each beach, different technological advancements used in the assault, and personal stories from the men who were there. Up until that point, my interest in history was a lot more premodern in its focus and honestly, I partially blame Molly's books for not hooking my attention. They really don't do a great job of bringing the war into the story the same way Felicity or Addy's do, and thus this was the first real exposure I had to World War II outside of watching Stalag 17 as a kid.

I've been kind of disappointed to see how little attention it's gotten in the media and in general, considering how important this day really was not only to America, or France or Germany, but honestly to the free world in general. I feel like it's just another example of how people don't really care that much anymore, and that depresses me more than I can say. The men who fought and died on those beaches deserve more than that, and those that lived through it certainly deserve more than a two minute segment on the TODAY Show that focuses more on Edward Snowden than on what they fought for. We're officially reaching a point in history where World War II is almost as far away from us as the Civil War was for them. Veterans are passing away every day, and we owe it to them to remember and to listen so that this chapter of world history doesn't fade away into obscurity.

So I hope you'll take a moment today to think about what it must have been like to wait on a tiny landing craft for the moment when you hit the beach, or to parachute out of a plane in the dark over a town you'd probably never heard of before shipping out, or waiting at home to hear what was happening and wonder if your son, father, brother or husband was involved, because Abraham Lincoln really did say it best in November of 1863: It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Josefina's Agua de Melon

A fun, different way to cool down this summer!

So originally, I wanted to do a series of posts featuring birthday treats highlighted in each American Girl birthday book, like I did with holiday treats last December. Unfortunately, between not having a lot of free time on my hands and kind of needing to cool it on how many desserts we go through a month, that plan has... kind of gotten away from me.

Still, I wanted to do something, so happy birthday, Josefina! Very late, but I suppose it's better late than never.

Josefina posed an interesting challenge at first because her birthday treats were a special bread and a cantaloupe. I'm sort of burnt out on trying to make bread work for me, and I mean, what is there to do with a cantaloupe that's not a fruit salad?

Well, little did I know that there was a very easy solution just waiting to be discovered!

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Marie-Grace's Chocolate Chess Pie

A tasty pie that's easy to make and suuuuper chocolatey!

Remember when I used to post about things that weren't desserts? Yeah, me too.

There's just something about trying out a new dessert recipe that's always caught my interest more than making something savory. I'd like to say that's because I've always been a more confident baker than chef, or that baking just comes more naturally to me, and both of those statements are true, but let's be honest: trying out new dessert recipes is fun because desserts are pretty universally delicious, and I definitely have a sweet tooth.

This one definitely embodies some of my favorite things in a recipe: it was easy to make, didn't require a lot of clean up and was super chocolatey! I'm sure a lot of you are wondering what on Earth a chess pie is - I know I was when I first found the recipe. All I can say right now is that you really should just click read more to find out, because I promise it's going to be something that at least a few of you might want to try out yourself!

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Felicity's Spicy Carrot Cake

Don't worry, this isn't the kind of spicy that sets your mouth on fire!

Happy Mother's Day, everyone! I hope everyone had a stress free holiday and took a chance to tell any maternal figures in their lives how much they mean to them.

Obviously moms are a pretty important part of American Girl books - dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles are too, but moms in particular have always stood out to me as the stand out adult characters. While my favorite is hands down Ruth Walker (Addy's Mom), Martha Merriman reminds me the most of my mother for reasons I've already discussed, and since Felicity is the doll she said she probably would have wanted as a child, it seemed fitting to find a recipe from the colonial era to serve at our family dinner tonight.

The one she picked turned out to be another winner, and while it's not as simple to make as War Cake, it was definitely worth the effort!

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Molly's Chocolate War Cake


You'll never need a box mix ever again!

Happy VE Day, everyone! It's been sixty nine years since the war in Europe ended - can you believe that? I definitely can't! I also can't quite wrap my mind around how we're almost to the point where World War II is as far away to us as the Civil War was to people in 1945. To me, it seems like World War II really wasn't that long ago

When the news of victory in Europe reached the American public, spontaneous parties broke out all over the world, with huge crowds gathering in the streets of cities like London, New York and Los Angeles to celebrate. In my hometown, people stormed the town green to share their excitement, because apparently even if we don't all bring our sheep down there for grazing, it's still the focal point of this little New England town.

So, what did people make to celebrate an occasion like this? One of the tastiest from scratch cakes I've ever had the pleasure of making!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Wookie Cookies with Julie and Ivy

May the Fourth be with you!

As some of you may know, today is something of an unofficial holiday for Star Wars fans, and as Star Wars first premiered in 1977, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to do a feature on the blog in honor of it! This features a recipe I've been curious to try pretty much as far back as I can remember, and I'm not actually sure what took me so long to sit down and say alright, today we are going to do this.

And never fear, Julie and Ivy haven't totally taken over the blog! I've got two new posts plans that don't feature either of our favorite girls from the 70's, ahaha.

But without further ado, let's get on to the recipe! I mean, what exactly is a Wookie Cookie?

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Two Posts in One: Julie and Ivy's Jello Eggs, Planet Bars and Ice Cream Eagles!

So I know I've been pretty absent around here, and once again, I'm really sorry about that. Life has just been kind of crazy the last few weeks and I haven't had as much time as I'd like to to devote to the blog, even if I have been puttering around in the kitchen! I had a lot of plans that kind of needed to get scrapped - something for Passover, a fun sounding Kirsten themed recipe... - but I did manage to get it together enough to do something for Easter and Earth Day, and I finally found the motivation to sit down and write about what we did.

Long story short, this post is going to be a two in one! Featuring Jello Eggs for Easter...

A childhood favorite addition to our Easter menu.

And two recipes from Julie's Cooking Studio: Planet Bars and Ice Cream Eagles!


So without further ado, it's get started!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Addy's Peach Pie

The secrets of making a good pie crust will be revealed!

I know I've kind of fallen off the face of the earth around here over the last week or so. You can blame a certain Marvel movie for that - and if you haven't seen Captain America: The Winter Soldier yet, what are you doing? Go see it! - because this is the first time one of my genuine favorite characters of all time has had a more central role in the film, and not been entirely unrecognizable. You go, Bucky! Now if only DC would give me the Nightwing movie I've been waiting for my whole life.

Anyway, last Friday was not only the premiere of my new favorite movie, but also my grandfather's 80th birthday! I've mentioned before that he is quite the fan of pie, and since his birthday and Addy's are relatively close together (Addy's was on the 9th), I decided I couldn't pass up this opportunity to give piemaking another shot!

Even if I was more than a little intimidated by the process.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Kailey's Lava Mug Cake

A ridiculously tasty treat that takes less than ten minutes and two bowls to make!

While most people probably only pay attention to April 1st more than most other days in April because of April Fool's Day, for me, it's my younger sister's birthday and that's always what I think of before even vaguely considering playing a prank on someone. She's back at college right now, so real birthday celebrations will have to wait until she gets home, but for the time being, I think I've got something she and anyone else who needs a chocolate fix will really, really enjoy.

Seriously, these things are delicious.

I usually feel bad for telling her about what we've been doing for the blog while she's at school because it's not like I can just mail her the soup I made for dinner, or the chicken I baked, but this is something you don't even need a stove to prepare. It's an incredibly quick recipe that's ready to eat almost immediately, and if you're anything like me, you'll start wanting another one pretty much as soon as the first is gone.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Kit's Pasta and Peas

A surprise discovery that turned out to be an old family favorite! ... For some.

Continuing my adventures in making authentic, historical recipes, we decided to head backwards in time to the Great Depression, partially because Kit Kittredge has officially joined my rapidly expanding collection, but also because I found a neat little cache of recipes that I thought could be fun to try out.

Depression era food is probably just as difficult to sell to people as 40's wartime food, and 70's casseroles that sound like someone effectively dumped the contents of a pantry into a dish and hoped for the best. I know a lot of people make faces when I mention it's something I'm interested in, and I'm pretty sure it would be a hard sell to get certain friends and family members over for similar dishes. That being said, I've been enjoying the results, and I think some of the mystique and terror associated with cooking during these two eras has started to dissipate.

I'm sure some of my taste testers will protest that fact, but what can I say? Maybe I'm learning to overcome my picky eating habits.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Emily's Smothered Sausages

Your courage, your cheerfulness, your resolution will bring us victory!

I've been promising a post like this for quite a while. Most of my other posts focusing on Emily Bennett have talked about food that - while British and tasty - she might not have been able to eat for the better part of her childhood, and every time I do one, I promise the next one I do... and then promptly chicken out and go with something that looks and sounds far more appetizing.

But today I finally make good on that promise by bringing you a recipe from a cookbook my grandmother purchased at The Imperial War Museum in London featuring war time British recipes! I mentioned in one of my last posts that the IWM is one of my favorite museums and I honestly have to say it's probably the best I've ever been to. Unfortunately, it's undergoing a major renovation right now and is therefore closed until July, so plan your trips to London accordingly!

This probably isn't the tastiest looking thing I've ever made for this blog, but I have to say, it actually wasn't too bad! It's quick, something different, and proof that I probably wouldn't have starved to death while living off what I could throw together with rations.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Samantha's Deviled Eggs

Spoilers: they're labor intensive, but an incredibly pretty, tasty way to make an elegant looking treat to eat!

My sister was home on break from college a week ago, and while she was home, I asked if she'd be interested in taste testing some recipes for the blog, and mentioned that I had been wanting to do deviled eggs. She very enthusiastically supported that idea, and a few days before she had to go home, our schedules finally aligned and I was able to make good on that promise with what were pretty tasty results, if I can get away with saying that.

Deviled eggs have a surprisingly long history. They're a dish I'd never really spent much time pondering the origins of, but in doing my usual poking around for information, I discovered that while they weren't called deviled eggs, a boiled, stuffed egg has been appearing on people's tables at least since the time of Ancient Rome! The Greeks and Romans were some of the first Europeans to domesticate chickens, and apparently they started getting creative with egg preparation not long after they had a steady supply of them. The "deviled" name caught on in the 1700's, and versions of the dish are enjoyed by people around the world. Since they have been and still are so popular for so long, there's nothing necessarily specifically linking them to people of the Victorian Age (or Edwardian, as Samantha was more properly a member of), but I think we can all agree that a dish that takes a lot of time and effort to prepare and looks so elegant that they'd be right at home in that era.